There are around 2,000 employees and workers in the White House where the American president works and lives. These workers include cleaners and floral designers. The president has 234 administrative assistants, 76 assistant and consultants in the National Security Council, 27 in the economic council, 33 in the office of science and technology policy, 240 in the commercial affairs office and so on.
President Donald Trump, and those who preceded him, do not wake up in the morning and just decide policies from their head. The president is an institution and not a figure on his own. An army of consultants works with him, and there are specialized departments, which offer him options. Trump thus makes decisions accordingly and based on a supreme policy that represents the American Republican right wing.
Trump’s offensive policy in defending America’s economic interests is also a higher policy that’s based on five pillars: supporting national security, strengthening the economy, sealing better commercial deals, confronting competitors and ratifying bilateral commercial agreementsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Anyway, everyone now knows that Trump is different than previous presidents. It’s due to mixing between his character and his policy that they warn us of dealing with him and ask: Why do you bet on him?
Before talking about him, we must remember that in terms of relations between countries, dealing with the state’s president is not an option. Trump is the president of the US regardless of what some think of him.
Character vs policy
There are two sides to Trump, his character and his policy. He is not a traditional president, as he does not commit to the presidency’s traditions. He’s spontaneous and a populist, and he knows how to sway his voters. The most recent poll among Republican voters last month showed that Trump still enjoys great popularity, above 80%.
He’s someone who likes confrontations when there are crises, regardless of all the trouble this may bring. An example is his battles with American media outlets which has reached an unprecedented level of clashing to the extent that these days there are advertisements calling on people to sign a petition to impeach him. This is Trump and this is his character.
The side which people find difficult to understand is his policy. Many think he does not have a policy and that he represents a chaotic and impulsive case. That is not true at all. Most of what he proposes reflects the policy of the higher institution, such as dealing with the nuclear deal and Iran and dealing with North Korea, China, Europe, NATO, terrorism as well as dealing with internal affairs like health insurance, abortion, migration and others.
Of course, some of his opinions are opposed even inside his Republican party, and this is normal. The most controversial matter is his policy towards Russia, and we’ve seen him back down while making statements after he returned from his meeting with the Russian president. This confirms that the higher policy remains the final judge.
It’s actually Trump who permitted the announcement of the indictment of Russian officers in the case of the electronic targeting the Democratic Party. And this was before he met with Putin to pressure him.
There is also his decision to impose massive fees on China’s imports and the commercial war it may cause between the two giant markets. This decision reflects the state’s fear of what it views as China’s rise at the expense of the US while using America’s technology and living off American markets with subsidized goods and others. This is the state policy in which congress members in joint committees from both parties in the Senate participate in making.
Trump’s offensive policy in defending America’s economic interests is also a higher policy that’s based on five pillars: supporting national security, strengthening the economy, sealing better commercial deals, confronting competitors and ratifying bilateral commercial agreements.
Most of what we’ve seen, at least in foreign affairs, reflects the government’s policy. What’s new is the president’s style. In Brussels, after Trump entered the meeting hall and sat in front of the NATO secretary and after the door was opened for journalists and photographers to enter and take photos, Trump surprised everyone, except his team, when he harshly criticized Germany, much to the NATO representatives’ shock.
Despite the strange incident, Trump’s statements were in line with the US stance even before Trump became president. Washington was displeased with Europe’s orientation to import gas and in large quantities from Russia because it strengthens Russia’s political influence and economically empowers it.
What’s common is for the president’s statements in front of journalists to be limited to compliments, such as voicing the strong ties with his NATO partners, and then after the journalists leave and the door is closed, the participants frankly talk to each other and Trump can then attack Germany’s stance and NATO’s stance if he wants to.
Trump reflected Washington’s real stance. He said it in his own style which prefers to embarrass the other party. The US secretary of state who sat beside him did not seem surprised because these statements have been prearranged within the American team while making use of Trump’s controversial character and as he himself, i.e. Trump, seeks to make gains from popularity inside the US. His eye is on the midterm elections in November and his other eye is on the presidential elections later.
My next article will be about Trump and his policy, changing the constants and destroying the international institution.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.